What do Rwanda, Bangladesh, Eritrea and Tanzania have in common? Other than being desperately poor Third World countries, they, in addition to many other nations, ban the use of plastic bags in shops and stores.

It is bizarre that these countries see fit to ban these bags while the United States — with otherwise some of the highest environmental standards in the world — makes, sells, uses and then throws away over 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year.

Studies show that while about three percent of these bags will be recycled, most will end up in a landfill where they will exist in a zombie-like state for centuries, not serving a purpose and not decomposing.

However, some — maybe only a small percentage but still many bags — will elude the landfill and wind up on our streets, in our drainage systems, in our trees, in our marshes and oceans, in wildlife habitats and other places where they are certainly unwelcome and perhaps hazardous.

Isle of Palms is considering enacting a ban on single-use plastic bags in its stores. While plastic industry advocates can present a strong cost/benefit argument against banning bags, the more important issue is the value that we, as citizens and residents, assign to our environs.

Banning the bags represents more than a purely economic decision. It would be a powerful statement that the Isle of Palms cares about the environment and the cleanliness of the island. Moreover, perhaps this statement will make us residents and the island’s many visitors more environmentally aware and encourage us to do our part to help keep our island and the surrounding waters clean.

Isle of Palms should embrace this opportunity to become the first municipality in the state to “ban the bag.” Maybe by doing so our sister communities in the Lowcountry would consider joining us.

Paul Strickler

Ensign Court

Isle of Palms